Hyderabad FC will be keen to continue their unbeaten run when they take on a struggling SC East Bengal in an Indian Super League fixture at the Tilak Maidan here on Tuesday.
Four games into the season, Hyderabad FC are one of just three teams that are yet to lose a game (a win and three draws) and they will be eager to convert their efforts into a victory, against the ISL debutants.
SC East Bengal have not had the best of starts to the season. They are yet to score a goal, but logged first point in the league table in a feisty clash against Jamshedpur last Thursday.
They remain bottom of the table but could prove to be one of the biggest tests for Hyderabad so far this season. "With every game, East Bengal are getting better. Their fixtures so far have not been easy. Suspensions and late goals conceded have been the issues for them, but they have been playing some really good football," said Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez on the eve of the clash.
"The draw they secured against a physical Jamshedpur side despite playing with ten men for over 70 minutes, is proof of their quality and I expect this game to be a tough test for our side."
Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler, who is also in his first season as coach, didn't have an ideal pre-season with his squad given their delayed entry into the ISL.
"We are a team for the fighters," Fowler said. "Our spirits are high anyway. In four games that we played, we did okay. Yes, we have been unlucky at times. Players are getting fitter and we would see a better East Bengal team now," Fowler said.
But almost a month into the campaign, SC East Bengal are getting used to the methods and are slowly gaining form. The likes of Matti Steinmann, Jacques Maghoma and Anthony Pilkington have formed a good understanding in the midfield and in attack, while the likes of Sehnaj Singh and Scott Neville can provide cover at the back.
The absence of Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who serves a suspension for the red card he picked up in the last round, could affect Fowler's plans for this game.
Asked bout not being able to open the scoring account, Fowler, a mean goal-poacher in his heyday said : "We go out there to win the game. I can't stress enough how tough it has been for us. A lot of decisions have gone against us. We have to show a more self belief like we did in the last game," Fowler said.
However, the Englishman has enough quality in his side to come up with a solution. Hyderabad FC, on the other hand, though unbeaten, have picked up just three points from the last three games.
But the consistency of youngsters like Chinglensana Singh, Liston Colaco, Akash Mishra and Hitesh Sharma has been a real asset for the side this season, despite suffering multiple injury setbacks in the opening rounds.
"They (the missing players) are important players for us but this is the reason why the squad has more than eleven players. This gives a great chance for the youngsters in the squad who are showing their quality and proving that they are ready for these games," Marquez said.
While East Bengal have conceded the most goals in the ISL along with Odisha FC, Hyderabad have conceded the least, alongside league leaders Mumbai City. But the stats will not matter when the two equally matched teams take on each other at Vasco.